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TED Talks on digital marketing

12 Must-Watch TED Talks on Digital Marketing

7 minute read | May 13, 2019
Masooma Memon

Written by:
Masooma Memon

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These days, as you navigate your path through a new field such as digital marketing, you take advantage of myriad online learning resources. You can take free online marketing classes or follow marketing experts on social media. A really valuable addition to your self-learning plan are the TED Talks videos. This is a great place to get started, teaching as well as inspiring viewers.

Without further ado, let’s walk through some of the best TED Talks on digital marketing:

Why you should treat the tech you use at work like a colleague

Let’s begin at the beginning, with technology. In this TED Talk, Nadjia Yousif, a technology advisor and member of the technology advantage and financial institutions practice areas at The Boston Consulting Group, shares a unique perspective regarding tech.

She suggests that billions of dollars go to waste just because tech orders are canceled or delivered but do not live up to the expectations of company management. However, befriending tech—treating marketing software almost like a colleague with a job description and a reporting structure, for example—can improve the situation. Considering that digital marketing is a field that requires man and machine to work together, this talk is a must-watch for improved efficiency.

How boredom can lend to your most brilliant ideas

Digital marketing is a line of work that sits on the foundation of ideas. The more creative your idea is, the better your chances of success are. The only catch is that truly fresh ideas are becoming a bit of a rarity, as author and journalist Manoush Zomorodi points out.

In her TED Talk, she posits that our habit of multitasking ‘round the clock leaves little room for thinking. She further suggests that boredom is the key to great ideas. Zomorodi backs up her claims and observations with audio clips from neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists.

Among the fascinating stats she shares during the lecture: “The average person checks email 74 times a day and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day.”

(Don’t switch tasks just yet; there’s more to watch!)

What physics taught me about marketing

Ex-Google marketing director Dan Cobley plucks out concepts from physics that can help teach marketing. He explains how laws of physics, such as Newton’s second law, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the second law of thermodynamics, and others, help us understand branding.

Newton’s law says that “force equals mass times acceleration.” Rearranged slightly, this becomes “acceleration equals force over mass,” meaning that a larger mass requires more force to change its direction. “It’s the same with brands: the more massive a brand, the more baggage it has, the more force is needed to change its positioning,” Cobley says.

Where are our digital ads really going

Seventy percent of consumers say they don’t like ads on their mobile phones even though research on the matter highlights that mobile search ad results can improve brand awareness by 46 percent. Undeniably, these ads form a crucial part of digital marketing. However, in her superb talk, Kristi Rogers questions the future of these very ads.

With her background in finance, Rogers also pulls out similarities in the finance and digital advertising industries. The center of her talk is held by the need for relevancy of ads so that they target only an apt audience. In addition to this, the talk addresses the complex reality of advertising.

How China is changing the future of shopping

In 2019, the number of global digital buyers is expected to reach 1.92 billion, which is about a quarter of the world’s population. Angela Wang, a retail expert, dives into this aspect of the digital sphere: e-commerce. She gives a glimpse of the online shopping landscape in China, where consumers spend on average one hour shopping on their mobile phone during a single shopping experience, which is three times as long as U.S. consumers spend.

Wang credits the modern online shopping ecosystem, with its instant mobile payments, as a factor that has increased the growth of virtual shopping.  

She describes China as a “huge laboratory” where “a lot of experiments are generated every single day.” She notes that “the ecosystems are reforming supply chain distribution, marketing, product innovation, everything.” So it’s important to stay on top of the changes developing in China.

The nit-picking glory of The New Yorker’s Comma Queen

This TED Talk comes from Mary Norris, author, writer, and copy editor at The New Yorker. It dives into another essential branch of digital marketing: copywriting. Norris shares her experience as a copyeditor and the role that copyeditors play in creating high-quality, readable content. It helps explain how seemingly minor changes can dramatically impact the quality of a piece of writing. For those interested in content marketing (which 91 percent of B2B marketers employ), this talk deserves your attention.

Adventures in Twitter fiction

Undeniably, social media marketing is an important branch of digital marketing and creatively using one of the major social networks, like Twitter, can be fruitful for a digital marketer.

Writer and editor Andrew Fitzgerald experiments with telling stories online using new digital tools. In this talk from 2013, he sheds light on Twitter as a method of storytelling that is not only valuable as a distribution mechanism but also a production tool. His examples are older, but they still could get your creative juices flowing.

In defense of emojis

The customer technology manager on UPS’s mobile strategy team, Jenna Schilstra, chose the rather unique (especially in 2016) topic of emojis for her TED Talk. Although part of our day-to-day conversations, these are often neglected in digital marketing. Recent research, however, taps into their potential, revealing that emojis in a Facebook post can increase the likes it gets by 57 percent and the comments and shares by 33 percent.

In her talk, Schilstra takes us through the history of emojis and discusses how they have been in the picture since the dawn of time. She also applauds these as powerful visual communication tools that help “clarify and amplify” text. If you listen to this talk from an aspiring digital marketer’s lens, you will learn how emojis can help you connect and communicate with your audience better.

A black man goes undercover in the alt-right

In this thought-provoking talk, Theo E.J. Wilson shares his story and by doing so explains a lot about digital marketing. Wilson is a poet, author, and motivational speaker who gained prominence on the internet during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement. Through that work, he says, more people began looking up to him to give words to their opinions.

While describing his influencer journey, though, Wilson dives into problems of the digital sphere that affect us as well. For instance, he discusses algorithms and digital footprints. In sum, this TED Talk sheds light on navigating the online maze as an influencerin a light, chatty tone.  

How social media can make history

Another older TED talk that is absolutely worth revisiting is Clay Shirky’s discussion of how social media can make history. Shirky is a consultant, writer, and teacher on the social and economic effects of journalism and internet technologies. Here, he dives into the history of media, how it has evolved, and how it has overcome its deficiencies.

He also goes on to give examples of how social media can impact lives. In fact, Skirky tags the social media landscape as not “just a source of information but it is increasingly more of a site of coordination.”

The tribes we lead

TED Talks on digital marketing is incomplete without including one by the digital marketing pro and American entrepreneur Seth Godin. In his talk, he walks the audience through how traditional advertising methods have failed and introduces his concept of an “idea of tribes,” which revolves around “leading and connecting people and ideas.” He also emphasizes another important concept of digital marketing: selling to a highly targeted audience.

Why videos go viral

In present times, video marketing has become an arm of the online marketing realm that can no longer be ignored. In 2019, video content will make up 80 percent of the global internet consumption, which brings us to this relevant and very important TED Talk by Kevin Allocca.

Allocca has spent years tracking and understanding trending content as the head of culture and trends at YouTube. He explains what makes videos go viral, landing on three essential elements: tastemakers, communities of participation, and unexpectedness.

Related12 Awesome TED Talks on UX Design

You can learn extensively from these TED Talks. They shed light on viral content, serving a defined, targeted audience, engaging with your community, and listening and gathering feedback, among other topics.

Since you’re here…
Ready for a career in digital marketing? Test our curriculum with this free digital marketing learning path, and check out our salary guide to see what you could be making.

About Masooma Memon

Masooma is a freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. Follow her on Twitter @inkandcopy.